Guest AuthorPavan Soni

Inflexion Point, December 2019

By | Dr Pavan Soni | IIM-B Innovation Evangelist 

Welcome back to Inflexion Point.
This edition talks about how Indian companies manage various aspects of innovations, ranging from soliciting ideas, governance mechanisms, encouraging experimentations, and rewarding results.
I hope that you borrow some of these for your endeavors, and also share your practices to the audience at large.
Take care, and wish you a delightful new years 2020.
There are very few conglomerates in the world which have thrived for over 150 years, and India’s $100Bn+ Tata Group ranks as one amongst the leaders. Apart from the pioneering innovations on employee wellbeing, society and culture at large, the group has also very systematically fostered a culture of innovation. Little doubt, in several industries, chiefly, hospitality, IT services, steel and commercial vehicles, it is a name to reckon with. For over a decade now, Tata Innovista has been the primary rewards and recognition mechanism at the group companies, and one of the award categories in particular – ‘Dare to Try Award’- is instrumental is helping shape a failure tolerant culture. (Source: Tata Innovista)
Another very respected Indian conglomerates which has broken new ground in engineering and services alike is the 75 years old Mahindra & Mahindra. This $20Bn+ conglomerate has devised two prominent ways of tapping into the minds of the youth, which represents a significant share of its employee and customer base. First is the ‘Shadow Board’, a team of young high-performers who work independently on high profile projects and report directly to the company’s board to supply insights and ideas from the trenches. Another decade old initiative is the Mahindra War Room, a business plan cum case study competition that engages with B-school students to crack open company-wide tough challenges and opportunities. (Source: Mahindra Shadow Board)
You typically don’t associated design thinking with a highly regulated industry like pharmaceuticals, and that too with one dealing chiefly in generics. But that is not true with Hyderabad-based Dr. Reddy’s, which has its own design thinking studio by the name Studio 5B. The company is a big proponent of design principles, right from the customer engagement to designing of corporate policies and employee behaviors. Early this decade, the company adopted design thinking approach to design its logo and byline ‘Good Health Can’t Wait’. If a generic pharma company talks about patient centricity, shouldn’t your business? (Source: Studio 5B)
Large, old multinational, multicultural companies are realizing that they can’t make the best and the brightest to work with them. They need to, instead, work with the community, albeit around specifically identified problems. Most excited companies miss out on the imperative of being disciplined and objective towards an open innovation program. Unilever India has identified a host of challenges where the company is seeking an outside-in perspective on cracking the science, engineering and access issues. Some of the problems include broadening the access to potable water, going beyond skin and dental care to holistic wellbeing, and others. (Source: Hindustan Unilever Innovation Portal)
Coming up with an idea is one thing, but scaling it up to make a sustained impact is quite another, and Marico enables precisely the latter. In 2004, Marico started the Marico Innovation Foundation, a not-for-profit to recognize, enable and connect entrepreneurs and ideators to make sizable social and economic impact, and over the years, a lot of learning has trickled down to the group. Through the program of ‘Innovate 2 Cultivate’ the team is addressing agrarian challenges at scale and incubating new companies. As for the innovation awards, a deep dive would reveal several hidden gems from across India on how ideas made lasting impact. (Source: Marico Innovation Foundation) 
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